Love Is a Legacy That Will Never Die
"Granny -- what happens to you when you die?"
The question comes from Brooks, my grandson. We are all sitting at the kitchen table: Granny and Brooks, age 7, and his cousins Sophia, 6, and Lila, 4. Their mothers (my two daughters) are upstairs, sleeping in, and Granny is in charge.
What happens when you die? Too early for this! I get the coffeemaker going, find the Cheerios, pour the milk.
"Yeah, Granny, what happens?" Sophia asks.
I dissemble. "Well, I'm pretty young," I begin. "I'm probably not going to die for a while." Finally the coffee is ready, and I pour myself a cup. Maybe we can now talk about something else.
Silence. Three pairs of brown eyes stare at me. The children wait for an answer.
"Well, I won't be here anymore," I mumble and take another sip of coffee. The children look confused. Not here? Not in the house? Brooks points to the kitchen cabinets. "But what happens to all your stuff?" he asks. That's easier to answer: "Your parents will take care of the stuff," I say brightly. The children, only slightly reassured, keep staring at me. I have to focus on the question.
Perhaps this is one of the gifts of grandchildren: to keep us focused on the issues that really matter. News events dominate daily conversation: the home mortgage meltdown, a bombing in Pakistan, the race for the presidency. But what about the Big One? Death. Hard enough to explain subprime loans to young children, let alone al-Qaeda or even the electoral college. How to explain the roll of generations, the natural cycle of birth, life and death? The notion of peace everlasting? Sophia, Lila and Brooks are so young. Life lies ahead of them.
"When I die, my body will be gone," I begin. "But one part of me never dies. My love for you never dies. When I die, all my love jumps inside of you," and I turn to Brooks and tickle his chest. He smiles. Then I tickle Sophia and Lila. All my love jumping inside you. More giggles.
"You know, let's say you have a big test one day and you're nervous. Just before the test, you can take a deep breath and say to yourself: 'My granny loves me!' "
"That's great, Granny," Brooks says.
"I have an idea," Sophia says. "What if we put a picture of you on the wall and then when we get up we can say: 'Good morning, Granny!' "